This is the matchup that all Patriots’ fans circled on their calendar when the regular season schedule was released. With all the hype around the summer of the New York Jets, including their whole Hard Knocks series, New England has waited to show New York who is the class of the AFC East. Even though the Jets were thirty minutes away from the Super Bowl a year ago, the Patriots did win the AFC East. The Patriots showed in the offseason that they are tired of the Jets’ act; including quarterback Tom Brady who said he hates the Jets.
In Week One, the two teams had totally different results. The Patriots dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half en route to a 38-24 victory. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, including two to Wes Welker. Also, the defense made a statement with an interception for a touchdown by linebacker Gary Guyton (zero INT’s by linebackers a year ago). Throw in a kickoff return for a touchdown by wide receiver Brandon Tate and you have yourself a formula to a great win. That is, until you take into account the ill-timed postgame remarks from wide receiver Randy Moss.
As for the Jets, they struggled in a 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the opening of their new stadium. The defense was undisciplined with fourteen penalties for 125 yards, but the offense was the main storyline. Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for only 74 yards and the team managed only six first downs along with 188 total yards. True, this lackluster performance came without wide receiver Santonio Holmes (suspended for first 4 games), but that is not an excuse for a fan base looking for its first title since 1969 and that won’t settle for nothing less.
Here are some keys that will decide the winner on Sunday:
1. New York Jets’ passing game? I say this as a question mark because as previously mentioned in Week 1, the Jets showed no sign of a vertical passing game. If they want to improve against the Patriots, Sanchez will need to look downfield more often, especially to Braylon Edwards. Without Santonio Holmes for the next three games, Edwards becomes more essential to New York’s downfield success. On Monday, Edwards only had one catch on nine yards while only being targeted three times. If Sanchez does take the chances downfield, it can spread out New England’s secondary as well as potentially causing defensive holding or pass interference penalties.
2. Blitz-Blitz-Blitz: When facing a Rex Ryan defense, New England’s offense needs to recognize they will see numerous pass rushers early and often. The one factor that helps the Patriots is that one of New York’s top pass rushers Calvin Pace will miss this game with a broken foot. Also, on Monday, the Jets’ nose tackle Kris Jenkins tore his ACL and will be out fo the season. The key for the Patriots’ offense will be to use the running game sparingly with Fred Taylor.
The one thing that the Patriots have over the Ravens is the speed of their wide receivers. With Darrelle Revis covering Randy Moss, New England can use the check down pass very frequently with Wes Welker and if healthy Julian Edelman. Also, look for multiple tight end formations to be used in blitz protection, which is where rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez comes into play.
3. Revis Island – Ever since last year, receivers have been stranded on “Revis Island”, which includes Randy Moss. In two games, Moss only had one touchdown against the all-pro cornerback. Last week, Darrelle Revis played after a 36 day holdout and was not stuck on Anquan Boldin, but played the left corner and covered Derrick Mason. Moss commented yesterday on Revis “This slouch is coming at you for sixty minutes.” I expect Brady to attack at times, but they might want to look at the other two cornerbacks. Consider this fact: On Monday night, Joe Flacco only threw at Revis three times, so the threat of the all-pro corner is still there.
In the Jets’ loss to the Ravens, Antonio Cromartie had an interception, but struggled to contain Anquan Boldin in the fourth quarter. Also, the rookie cornerback from Boise State, Kyle Wilson had an awful night. He had a defensive holding on a 3rd and 28 in the first half and a pass interference late in the first half that led to the game’s only touchdown. Keep in mind, when the Patriots beat the Jets 31-14 on November 22nd, Welker had fifteen catches for 192 yards. Expect the Pats to spread the ball around.
4. Disciplined Football – This philosophy was not effective for the Jets on Monday with fourteen penalties for 125 yards. But, the key stat was the third down conversions. The Ravens went eleven for nineteen on third down conversions, including six first downs off of penalties. When you play a dynamic offense like the Patriots, you don’t want to give them second chances. Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick is going to give Sanchez many different looks over the course of this game, so don’t expect cornerbacks Darius Butler and Devin McCourty to give up many big plays downfield even if Rex Ryan wants the Jets to become more of a vertical team.
Jets – WR Jerricho Cotchery – If Sanchez throws the ball downfield, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery can play a huge part in this game. In his six seasons with New York, he has had his best games against New England. In two games last season, Cotchery caught seven passes for 171 yards. He did drop a huge third down pass last game, but his hands are usually reliable and may be a key to Gang Green’s short passing game.
Patriots – RB Kevin Faulk – It seems like Faulk has been the x-factor in all his games with New England over his career, but he can be essential to the Patriots moving the football in this game. Fred Taylor is the number one back after Laurence Maroney was traded to the Broncos on Tuesday, but look for Faulk to play a part on third down. With the Pats short of offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins, Brady will look to check down to Faulk against the blitz packages the Jets send at him. Faulk had four receptions for 47 yards last week against the Bengals. Look for the same results this week.
Prediction: This is a big game for the Patriots in terms of showing the Jets that they are still the class of the AFC East. New England’s goal will be to force Mark Sanchez to beat them and make him go down the field. I think New England’s special teams can help them win this football game if they can contain Jim Leonhard on punt returns to make the field position less admirable for the “Sanchise”. Jets right guard Brandon Moore even said today that this game is a must win for New York. However, Tom Brady steps up when he comes to playing in New York and I think he does that here.
Patriots 20, Jets 16